Charleston, South Carolina
by Mark Glass
Mark Glass is a journalist trapped in a lawyer's body, balancing his
writing and broadcasting on travel, entertainment and professional sports.
For years, I’ve wanted to see
if Charleston, South Carolina, is as charming and beautiful as fellow
travelers have claimed. Are there really so many lovingly-preserved
ante-bellum homes in a concentrated Historic District? Can its harbor
actually be so pristinely picturesque, while still serving as a busy port?
Can the restaurants actually offer the promised bounties?
On the other hand, South
Carolina has been a hotbed of controversy over its staunch refusal to stop
displaying the Confederate Flag. They’ve also been electing Strom Thurmond
to the Senate every six years since the Civil War ended - or so it seems. So
what is this? A tourist’s delight, or an anachronistic bastion of
My first chance to visit
happened to coincide, according to my desktop calendar of obscure holidays,
with Jefferson Davis’ birthday. What better chance would there be to put
the city to the test? How would they handle the day of honoring their former
president? I knew I could be objective. During the Civil War, my ancestors
were still scattered around Europe, with their own set of problems.
As a destination, I can report
that the city lived up to every aspect of its billing. Charleston is nestled
in the southern end of a peninsula, protected by some outer islands, to
collectively form a large, calm harbor. There are very few buildings taller
than three stories, preserving the quaintness of this deceptively active
center of commerce. There is so much to see in the Historic District that
the one-hour horse-drawn carriage tours rotate among four separate routes.
And if you assume there’s a Conservative-fomented ban on gambling, a
lottery system for each coach as it departs dictates which path it will
The business district is lined
with small stores, all in low store-front buildings. Many have awnings, to
preserve a small-town look in a city of about 90,000, anchoring a metro area
of over a half million people . Even the inevitable Starbuck’s occupies
the former abode of two banks and two jewelry stores. Several blocks
of King Street are monopolized by antique shops. Restaurants, ranging
from the posh Charleston Grill, to the aptly-named Sticky Fingers rib house,
fulfilled all my palate’s aspirations.
As to diversity, Charleston
boasts 187 churches of various denominations. In 1750, one of America’s
first synagogues was established there. Local churches led the funding drive
to erect a large abstract sculpture as a memorial to the Holocaust. Several
museums honor African-American contributions to the community. Charleston
gave us our country’s first woman pirate, Anne Bonny; and first female
newspaper editor and publisher, Elizabeth Timothy. Draw your own conclusion
about any similarities. As a freelance writer, I can’t afford to.
And that Confederate
thing? None of the locals even seemed to know it was Old Jeff’s birthday!
The place is so cosmopolitan, that it was hard to find southern accents
among the locals in the shops and restaurants. In Market Square - a
four-block, open air mall for area vendors to sell their wares from
wood-tabled stalls - only one of about 100 offered Confederate-themed
accessories. Even the narrator on our two-hour harbor cruise sounded like a
Maine fisherman who tired of their cold winters, and moved down the
So, I’m determined to return,
test my luck on the carriage lottery, and try to score the other three tour
routes. And there’s a passel o’ fine restaurants yet to savor. Y’all
might like ‘em, too.
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Email: email@example.com (Mark Glass)
Mark Glass is a
Mark Glass is a freelance writer and broadcaster, based in St. Louis, covering travel, entertainment and professional sports for his readers
and listeners. Mark was travel editor for "St. Louis Connoisseur", and
now have that role for "Life in the Midwest", based in Indianapolis.
For the last fifteen years, he's written and broadcast features on
travel, entertainment and sports, while maintaining his law practice in the St. Louis
area. (More about this writer.)